Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

When they told him Lucinda Hayes was dead, Cameron thought of her shoulder blades and how they framed her naked spine, like a pair of static lungs.

Girl in Snow cover image

Lucinda Hayes was just 15 years old when she died. They find her body, frosted with snow, sprawled on the playground floor. This is small town Colorado, and the rumours are soon flying through town along with the snowflakes. Who could have done this?

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Girl in Snow┬áhas an interesting premise in that we uncover the aftermath of a young girl’s murder, as well as the related secrets hidden in the past, through three POV characters, each with their own connection to the dead girl.

Cameron is a quiet, introverted boy who harboured a deep obsession with Lucinda. He would sneak from his house under the cover of darkness and stand, still and silent, watching Lucinda through her window. He would immortalise her in endless drawings, hidden away in his room. Cameron cannot remember where he was the night Lucinda died.

Jade watched with growing anger as Lucinda took away the life that should have been hers. Her closest friend, her job. All while seemingly indifferent to how hard Jade’s life was becoming as a result. Living with her abusive, alcoholic mother, Jade seeks control and release in witchcraft. Could she really have brought about Lucinda’s death just by wishing for it?

Russ is the police officer assigned to investigate Lucinda’s murder. But the curse of the small town is the likelihood of a personal history with any likely suspect. Can Russ really imagine the murderer to be the son of his estranged best friend? How will he face his wife if the culprit is her ex-con brother? Russ doesn’t know what he wants the truth to be.

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I will confess that I at first struggled to get drawn in to Girl in Snow. Some of the prose is quite beautiful, and certainly evocative, but at other times, I felt that the writing style caused the story to fade into the background, and become secondary. The pacing is not what you might expect from a crime or mystery story, because the plot is not driven by a murder investigation, or the actions of a killer close to capture. Rather, we gain a deep understanding of our three central characters, and how their lives and stories intersect, with each other, and with Lucinda.

As the story progressed, I began to feel myself eager to know, not only what had happened to Lucinda, but what the future would hold for Cameron, Jade and Russ. Each of them damaged and flawed in their own ways, but not always through their own faults. The ending of the book was satisfying, though not explosive or shocking, and I thought that each of the three different personalities of the POV characters were well developed and interesting.

For a debut novel I think this is a solid piece. For my own tastes, I’d perhaps have preferred the balance to tip a little more towards story and a little less towards character, but Girl in Snow was certainly an interesting read, which I think will stay with me for a little while now I’ve finished it.

Lucinda was dead, and the reminder slapped him constantly, freezing ocean waves against his thighs. He could only wade deeper. Deeper, until the truth bubbled into his mouth, salty, miserable. Deeper, until it was pointless to search for shorelines because he knew Lucinda would not be standing on them.

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